Sunday, July 31, 2011

My kinky world.

With only a few sharply-delineated exceptions, I live in a sexy little bubble. There is not a single friend I see regularly who isn't kinky and pretty firmly entrenched in the sex-positive, enthusiastic-consent, gender-liberated, social-justice-for-people-who-fuck-funny mindset. I spend a lot of my time in an apartment where all the roommates are kinky, I go to parties where everyone is kinky; hell, I play board games where everyone around the table is kinky. If I knitted, I'm sure I would be in a kinky knitting circle. It's a god damn way of life.

The funny thing is, it's gotten to the point where I have a bit of culture shock in the real world. When I go to work or talk to my family, the social rules are different--and not just in the "whether it's okay to talk about your cooter" sense, but in the entire way people interact. The unkinky world is simultaneously more reserved and less polite, if that makes sense; there's more concern about being obscene and less about being intrusive. (Also, I think my coworkers don't understand why I jump three feet when they casually lay a friendly arm across my shoulders.) They talk a lot about "men do doobidy do, women do daddidy dah" and I always grit my teeth a little, because I suspect that my own thoughts on gender would be just as annoying to them. I don't want to lay all this on "I'm so much more enlightened;" in many ways, I'm just acclimated to a different set of social expectations.

I'm glad to be a part of the kink community, although in many ways, I could get the same benefits from being part of the Albanian-American community, or perhaps an Elks Lodge. It's a circle of closely interconnected friends who meet regularly, include each other in their social events, and have just a little more warm feelings and trust for "one of ours" than we do for "an outsider." The group, while by no means a fair demographic sample, has some people from just about every walk of life. There's little sub-cliques and people who are "big fish in a small pond" types and people on the fringes of the group. We don't all like each other, but we definitely know each other. And even with all the intra-group gossip and grudges and micro-wars, that's a warm happy thing.

Really, there's only one major downside to the whole kink community thing: If you're an Elk, you can tell people about it. (Although, in fairness, if you're an elk, you cannot.) The particular warm happy community I belong to is one that's considered obscene by a lot of outsiders and dangerous by quite a few. So when I try to say "I'm a member of a lovely group of friends," what comes out sounds more like "I'm sexually aroused by human suffering." For good and ill, this makes the kink community even more insular, because there's a lot of things--things as big as our committed intimate relationships--we only feel really comfortable talking about with each other.

Still, I'm glad to have this community. It's good to be part of an "us," it's good to have a little prefab pool of friends, and I'll take it over the Elks any day, for one simple reason: I never got nearly this many screaming orgasms from an Elk.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The results are in!

Remember The Great Female Survey from a few posts back? Well, they've collected their data, such as it is, and the results are...

Pretty reasonable, actually.

In most cases the plurality of the answers went to the least evil option. (Which frequently was "none of the above," because who would have expected women to be not-evil?)

Although I was sad to hear that women become sluts at 20 partners (which, credit where credit's due, was at least the same as the point for a man becoming a "man-whore"). Because... well... I lost track somewhere in the teens. I had this list, and it went up to thirteen, and then the computer I had it on died, and I know I've had sex with a bunch of people since then... what I'm trying to say is I don't know if I'm officially a slut or not.

Also, it's hardly a fair survey of women in general--only 10% of respondents said they had children. So taking these data and saying things like "62% of women have 10 or more pairs of shoes!" is going to be every kind of wrong. It's more like 62% of a horrible hodgepodge of Cosmo readers, trolls, outraged feminists, and people who are "random" visitors but not in the scientific sense.

Now let's see how the men fared.

It's interesting just to look at the parallels between the questions asked.
Women's Version:
Yes, definitely!
Yes, but it is not for me.
No, I don't believe in marriage.

Men's Version:
Yes, I believe it is a necessary institution and one in which I will participate to help preserve.
Yes, I believe in it as an institution, but it is not for me.
No, I do not believe in it.

That's right; the men got bigger words.

33% of the women report being single. 46% of the men do. Polyamory isn't that popular and the survey pretty effectively excludes gay people, so this is yet another reason to roll your eyes any time the results here are trotted out as "40% of men think a woman starts losing her looks at 40!" Not to mention the fact that only three percent of the men report having children. Really, I can't stress enough how things like this make the survey entirely meaningless. I'm not even going to talk about the results--only the questions--because the methods here are as sensible as me doing a headcount in my house and determining that Boston is 100% white, 100% employed, 66% male, and 33% people who replace the toilet paper roll when they finish it.

Although it's worth noting that as with the women, the plurality of men chose the most decent-human answers despite being transparently baited to do otherwise. In the face of "WOULD YOU DUMP A GIRLFRIEND IF SHE BECAME FAT?" and "HAVE YOU EVER READ YOUR PARTNER'S FACEBOOK MESSAGES, EMAIL OR OTHER ELECTRONIC CORRESPONDENCE?", most men in the survey answered "no."

The men are asked how many partners makes a woman a "slut," (10) but not how many makes a man a "man-whore."

Men's Version:
A family.
A high-profile career.
A beautiful wife or girlfriend.
A beautiful house.
A beautiful car.
A membership to an exclusive club (like a country club).

Women's Version:
A beautiful house
A very successful husband or boyfriend
A beautiful wardrobe
A huge engagement ring
An expensive car

I'll spot them the engagement ring and country club as being gendered things, but what the fuck is up with women not getting the option to take pride in their family or their career? And of course the husband is "successful" but the wife is "beautiful." I... shit. I gotta write a whole post on this one.


Men's-only question:
None of the above. They all got what they deserved.
Anthony Weiner.
Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
John Edwards.

One of these things is not like the other things, one of these things is not the same... because one of these things is being accused of rape. I'm really frustrated by the way sexual assaults by famous people get positioned as "sex scandals" instead of "crime scandals." Violent felonies don't belong in the same "oh, boys" category as accidentally Tweeting your junk.

Last question on the men's survey:

Last question on the women's:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why I want to fuck my boyfriend up the ass.

Because he enthusiastically consents to it, yeah yeah, and because it's a morally neutral act that carries no shame, sure sure, of course. But these are only reasons not to not do it. Let's talk about why I want to do it.

I want to do it because I love my boyfriend's butt. I love my boyfriend, much more--but I love his butt in a completely separate way. Frankly, my relationship with my boyfriend and his butt is nearly polyamory. Rowdy has an exceptional butt, a truly world-class ass, round and strong and smooth, and it's a joy just to touch. To outright fuck it, to have that amazing ass tightening beneath me and that smooth skin pressing against my groin, would satisfy a primal lust for a thing of beauty.

I want to do it because it fucks around with gender. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I'm not very comfortable with being a girl? I love the feeling of having a cock. Obviously I can't feel it exactly (although with the base right up against my clit, quite a bit of sensation gets through), but I love having my cock stroked and sucked. And fucked. It's the thrill of sex mixed with the thrill of violating gender roles, and that's a lot of thrill right there. (I'd have to ask my boyfriend to get his perspective on this, but I don't think of it as making him more feminine. I want to look down and watch a man get fucked.)

I want to do it because it could hurt him. Not that I would! Psychologically, I can't. I've tried to hit him several times (with his agreement and encouragement), and the relevant Batman sound effect is not "bam" but "piff." I can't bring myself to do it. Nor could I bring myself to cause him pain by fucking his ass, but the fact that I could is powerful. It means that I have to be conscious of myself during sex, be responsible rather than impulsive in my actions, and be highly, highly sensitive to his reactions. I'm usually pretty uninhibited, so that's a new way for me to experience sex. It's also sexy as hell to have someone at my mercy because I am inside his body.

I want to do it because it turns me the fuck on for reasons I can't even elaborate here because I don't understand them myself. I want to do it because thinking about it gets me wet and squirming. I want to do it because I've had dreams about it. I want to do it because every time I've played with a man's ass is a crystal clear and thrilling memory in my mind. I want to do it because it's fucking hot and hotness is a thing unto itself.

I want to do it because umf. Yeah.

The puzzle of persuasion.

What makes someone change their mind?

It's a fundamental problem in almost any kind of activism, and a major one in feminism. How do you persuade someone that what they're thinking is wrong, and they should think like you instead? Sometimes it feels almost impossible--people will come up with all kinds of justifications and defense mechanisms to defend their beliefs. (I sure do!) And the situation is unquestionably worse on the Internet, where politics often takes the form of a direct battle, and changing your mind would be tantamount to "losing."

But people do change their minds. Check out this graph of the growing acceptance of gay marriage:

That represents millions of people going from "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" to "they're here, they're queer, and I'm getting used to it."

I might be the worst person to write about persuasion, because I was a high school and college debater and had a major in Rhetoric. The techniques of formal debate and classical rhetoric are terrible for changing minds. They assume that the most logically sound arguments will win, that emotion is a mere flourish and facts are the most important thing for winning, and--worst of all--that "winning" is the same thing as persuasion. If I wanted to learn how to really get inside people's heads, I should have studied advertising.

I also, frankly, don't really try to change minds with this blog. Sometimes I find out that I did, and that's a wonderful thing; but I'm under no illusions that this is an outreach project. I'm mostly trying to educate and entertain people who already agree with most of my basic beliefs.

But feminism, if not this blog, has to go beyond preaching to the choir. If we want to sell the most fundamental beliefs of feminism--"men and women have equal potential and deserve equal treatment," "women deserve control of their bodies and lives," "differences in gender expression and sexuality should be respected"--we have to learn how to persuade people who aren't our buddies. Here's what little I know about that.

What Doesn't Work
•Calling people assholes. It's useful (and cathartic) when rallying the anti-assholes, but you're never going to convert someone with the pitch "agree with me and be my friend, asshole." (This is a problem that's particularly bad with religious--or atheist/skeptic--arguments, where it's traditional to call nonbelievers deluded morally-bankrupt sheep, then ask them if they'd like to join your club.)

•Direct debate. Especially the kind with point-by-point deconstruction of opposing arguments. Again, fun for the choir, but too intellectual and too combative. This is the fundamental flaw of formal debate--no one ever changed their mind because their points were systematically refuted. Worse, debate has the tendency to create "sides," and once someone's established loyalty to a side it takes a lot to get them to cross over.

•Facts as a primary argument. Facts can back up an emotional argument, but I don't think people come to favor gay marriage because they learn that children of gay parents have similar outcomes to those of straight parents, but because they feel better about gay marriage. (Also, in most of the major gender and sexuality debates, each side has its own statistics, so everyone's choosing their facts anyway.)

What Works
•Education. Here's who we are, here's what we believe, and briefly, here's why. We're not trying to persuade you; we just want to teach you. Never mind what our opponents say, or what we aren't--this is our honestly presented story on what we are. We're matter-of-fact, upbeat, and not defensive; we speak as if it's taken for granted that our cause is legitimate and straightforward, and hope you'll share that assumption.

•Polish. Take a look at the website for Fathers & Families. Now at the website for Fathers 4 Justice. They're both fathers' rights organizations, but F&F has a professional-looking website and speaks in what I can only characterize as "grown-up language." F4J has a website straight outta 1994, nominates an "Asshole of the Month" (and it's the President), and uses all caps and exclamation points like they're going out of style. Which they are. Both groups are advocating similar positions, but the one that looks like a "legit" organization is the one that made me go "hm, these guys sound pretty reasonable actually."

•Social pressure. I suspect that one of the biggest factors helping the increased acceptance of gay marriage is... the increased acceptance of gay marriage. When everyone else at your work or in your family believes a thing, it's easier to go along than not, and easy to think it's the "normal" belief. Obviously this one is pretty hard to get started, but you can create the impression of social pressure even when you're in the minority by presenting your view as socially normal and accepted by lots of nice-looking folks-next-door types, and by painting your most vocal opponents not as major threats but as fringe lunatics.

This, by the way, is where "asshole" rhetoric can be useful. Not in calling people assholes directly, but in picking out a particularly egregious and not very popular opponent, and telling them "you're too smart to listen to that asshole."

•Friendship. Man, when did my sex blog turn into Mr. Roger's Neighborhood? Next post is on buttfucking. But it's true; this is the most powerful form of social pressure. I can argue with strangers on the Internet all day long, I can ignore education, I can snark on ads. But when my friends tell me that they sincerely disagree with something I believe, that's when I give it real consideration. If I care about someone, and care what they think of me, then I'm going to take their opinions really, really seriously.

An organization, even a social movement can be a "friend" in some ways--it can have a particularly charming person who serves as a human face, and it can build a welcoming community of friends among its followers. If you can convince someone that you (or your group) are just nice people who are nice to be around, then convincing them of your actual positions is often secondary. Whatever arguments you make, the real argument is "You'll fit in and be liked if you agree with us."

Does any of this sound evil or manipulative? It's only evil if you use it to advance evil positions. And as for manipulation--you know, none of us came to our beliefs by cold logical analysis of all possible options. All argument is psychology, so I don't think it's unethical to happen to do psychology right.

Being professional and friendly and shrugging off insults isn't cathartic. It doesn't make for a ripping blog post or good entertainment for the converted. (And that's why I don't do it very much.) But if your goal is to truly change minds, I think that's where you have to start.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simply naming it.

As a fat person, the number one most common insult I've gotten isn't any reference to pigs, or to how I eat too many cheeseburgers, or how sexually unattractive I am. The most common insult is "fat." There's no implicit "you're fat, and therefore something"--just letting me know, in case I forgot or something. Fat is supposed to be bad in itself.

This is why I'm glad my boyfriend calls me fat. Don't get me wrong--he also calls me cute, smart, wonderful, adorable, sexy--but if my body shape comes up, he has no qualms in calling me fat. Affectionately. And I'm glad he does, because I think he's coming from the same place as me on this: euphemizing it would legitimize the insult. If he called me "curvy" or "solid" or "a bit larger" or simply dodged the issue altogether, the implicit message would be "but you're not fat, because fat is terrible."

This is the same reason that I hate to respond to "dyke" with "I'm not gay!" Even though I'm not--the correct answer is "so what if I am?" "Slut"--so what if I am? "Whore"--so what if I were? "Cocksucker"--yep, did that Saturday night!

So many insults in our culture consist of simply naming a thing, a morally neutral human quality, and every time you fight back by denying it, you play into the idea that the thing they described is bad. I don't think the insults can lose all their power through simple acknowledgement--sometimes the tone of voice and threatening delivery are enough to intimidate you even if all they said was "YOU ARE A MAMMAL AND YOU BREATHE AIR!" But it helps to keep the perspective--how much can someone hurt me by simply telling me what I am? I already know that. And how much can someone hurt me by telling me that I have a neutral quality that I don't happen to have? That's incorrect, but it shouldn't even hurt. I'm not yet emotionally armored to the point where the only effective insult is "YOU CAUSE SUBSTANTIVE HARM TO OTHERS!", but I hope to get there some day.

So why is the post image a sad pig? Because pigs are adorable creatures that are quite intelligent and tidy. But someone just called it a "pig" and now it feels bad, even though it knows how incredibly stupid that is.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to go to a play party (and not play).

I've talked before about how to go to a BDSM play party. A very common question I've gotten is: "What if I don't want to play?" Is it okay to go to a play party just to watch and socialize? How do you do that and still stay within BDSM etiquette and the good graces of your local community?

First of all, yes, you can do this. It's okay to go to play parties and not play. A small proportion of parties are "players only" and they will let you know with the invitation. Your average, generic party absolutely allows people to come without playing. Really, since most people will be playing for 15 minutes and hanging out for 3 hours, nobody's even keeping track of who played and who didn't.

Be friendly. A play party can be an intimidating environment for shy people, but if you can make (or bring) even one ally who's a little more familiar with the lay of the land, you'll have a much more positive experience and make a better impression. If you're not playing because you're new, your ally can help you understand the scene better; whether you're new or not, a person who hangs out and makes friends is a better addition to the community than someone who only watches. However, don't feel that people will hate you if you do hang out by yourself--as long as you're respectful, people will catch on that you're just shy.

It's okay to watch scenes, but respect boundaries. This means, specifically:
-Leave some space between yourself and the scene you're watching. There should be at least enough room for the top to swing their arms in a big circle, and preferably another arm-length for comfort.
-Often the bedrooms or back rooms at a party will be reserved for more private play. Stay out unless someone invites you.
-Don't ever talk to the players during a scene. A scene puts the players in a very intense mental and emotional state, and you can ruin the scene or even compromise the safety of the players by jarring their concentration. If you have a question or a safety concern, ask someone in the social space or a host or dungeon monitor.
-Don't ever ever ever touch people during a scene. I wish I didn't have to say this, but it's happened.
-Use a lot of judgement in commenting on scenes. If you have anything negative or "funny" to say, keep it to yourself; other comments should be made quietly and far from the players. You don't have to watch in silence, but before you speak, remember: these are ordinary people, not performers, and they are extremely emotionally and physically exposed. Don't say anything that you wouldn't want to overhear in a moment like that.
-I don't know how to say this, but... don't make ogle-face. Do you know what I mean? Don't do that. Look don't stare, lean back not forward, smile don't leer. Look like you're interested in the players, not like you want to eat them for dinner with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. (If you don't know if you're making ogle-face, you're probably not. Don't drive yourself nuts over this one.)

Don't be afraid to be blunt about your intention not to play. In BDSM, as everywhere else, "no" means "no." If someone tries to start an argument over "why not?", makes a scene or starts following you around, or asks repeatedly, talk to a host; they're crossing a line. However, do be aware: in part because of the consent-conscious culture, people in BDSM are more likely to ask you if you want to do something with them. If they simply ask and take the first "no" graciously, they're not violating any rules.

If you don't understand something, ask! Kinksters are sex nerds, and they will be tripping over each other with their eagerness to educate you. Just make sure you ask a bystander or a host, and not an active participant in a scene.

Don't be a tourist. If you're at a play party, you're one of us. This doesn't mean you have to play--but it does mean that you can't look down on the people who do heavy or unusual play, or act like you're an objective observer of our quaint culture. Don't--even mentally--point and laugh at the freaks, because by showing up, you are a freak.

No wanking! This is obvious, right? Unless it's a designated wank-friendly party (these exist), don't wank at a party. Seriously.

Asymmetrical perceptions.

I like kinky porn. Because of conflicting and troubling stories about the consent/enthusiasm of the performers, I've gotten pretty picky about the video/photo kinky porn I use (it's pretty much come down to "do I know the people who made it?"), but I still read kinky erotica. What I don't read, if I can possibly help it, is other people's comments on the stories.

The problem is, there are two ways you can enjoy a story about a woman letting her lover tie her down, beat her, and fuck her. The first is as a depiction of consensual BDSM that is fulfilling to both participants. The second is as the humiliation of a dirty slut. And reading the comments on a lot of BDSM erotica sites makes it clear that some people see it as the latter--and they like it.

This asymmetry plagues almost any sex-positive endeavor that's open to the public. Hold a BDSM demonstration that involves nudity, and some people are going to ogle it like a strip show. Produce enthusiastic-consent-modeling dyke erotica celebrating diverse body types, and some people are going to watch it as girl-girl porn. Host a gathering for kinksters to meet and socialize, and some people are going to see it as a great place to meet slutty chicks who are into freaky shit.

I'm phrasing these as differences of semantics, but they often result in differences in behavior. Someone who sees a play party as 360-degree porn for their entertainment is going to be bad company at best, an intrusive wanker at worst. (A literal wanker, sometimes.) Every person who thinks of munches as pure meat markets makes the community less safe and less welcoming. And it's disgusting and horrifying to have what you thought was a mutual exploration of sexuality with someone, only to learn that they just thought of you as a disposable slut who was giving it up easy.

I think this asymmetry of perceptions is mainly due to two factors: context and participation.

Being involved in sex-positive activities in good faith requires education. If you come into a sex-positive activity with only the knowledge you learned in the cultural mainstream--that sex is dirty, sluts are gross, women's sexuality exists for men's amusement, and kink is freaky-weird--then you're going to misinterpret everything you see. This is one of the reasons that I'm a big proponent of people settling into a kink community socially before attending parties.

I think that every sex-positive activity that's open to the public should come packaged with some sort of education on its context. It may be tiresome for the old hands, but when there are people in the audience who may never have been exposed to sexuality without judgement before, it's important to spell out both your ground rules--no wanking, ya wankers--and your conceptual foundations--this is a place for sexuality without judgement, ya judgers.

A big cause of asymmetrical perceptions at live events is when people are playing asymmetrical roles. People who put themselves in the role of "audience member" or "customer" at sex-positive activities tend to cause many more problems than people who put themselves in the role of "participant." When I've felt exploited after sex, it's because my partner saw himself as a normal guy fucking a slut, rather than one slut fucking another.

I don't think everyone at BDSM parties has to play. But I think everyone at BDSM parties should have to identify themselves as a kinkster, as part of the party, not as a spectator. In practical terms, I think it would help to require everyone to help in some way to create the event. This could be an entirely token thing--bring one bag of chips, pick up one piece of trash--and it would still help people feel more like community members, less like consumers. And this is a second reason that I think "munch before you party" is so important.

In a way, this is simply another aspect of providing context--letting people know that by engaging with sex-positive culture, they are now a part of it. Whatever false dichotomy someone had between "perverts like them" and "normal people like me" should be destroyed the instant they start getting enjoyment from the perverts.

Like watching what perverts do? You're a pervert yourself now--so you'd better come to terms with why that's not a bad thing. Like having sex with sluts? Guess what that makes you...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not the destination that matters.

In all this kerfuffling about my gender identity, I've come to realize one thing for certain. And it's not what gender I am.

It's that I am fucking lucky, goddamn privileged, to be surrounded by people who are comfortable with my uncertainty and willing to accept whatever decision I do make. I don't have a boss telling me "the dress code specifies females must wear makeup." I don't live with anyone who will kick me out if I start dressing or acting funny. I don't live in a country where my gender expression is regulated by law.

Whether I'm butch, transmasculine, genderqueer, genderfluid, tomboy, boi, androgynous, genderless, or just a different sort of cis woman--I'm glad to have found a subculture and a group of friends where these are all recognized identities. I'm glad that I can tell my boyfriend "I don't feel like I'm really a woman" and he can answer with "hm, I know what you mean, gender's a funny thing" and not "of course you are" or "then get out." I'm glad I can post about this on my blog and get a wide variety of thoughtful responses and not a "lol wat, ur gay."

Having the freedom to question and change my role in sex and society, and to do that in an atmosphere without one right answer (or even two), is one of the biggest and best freedoms I know. I just wish more people had it.

What I really want to say to the public, to the blogosphere, to whoever reads this, with all my hemming and hawing about my gender is not what gender I am. What I really want to say is that it's okay to hem and haw about your gender, or about the way you express that gender. There's a lot of possibilities--including never knowing for sure--and not one of them makes you less of a person.

I woke up as a man today. Maybe you didn't.

My last post has gotten pretty heavily criticized. And I think the critics are right.

I think the problem I have is that, for me, femininity is something artificial, something added on. Obviously not everyone experiences it this way.

I, personally, feel masculine when I'm not trying and feminine only when dolled up. I, personally, feel like femininity is uncomfortable and inconvenient. I, personally, feel like femininity is something that requires me to make effort and make changes, and masculinity is just how I am when I wake up.

I, personally, am not everyone.

I, personally, really may not be a woman.

I woke up as a man today.

This morning at 7 AM, the alarm went off, I woke up, and I was a man.

Oh, no penis or anything like that. All the effects of that second X chromosome were in place as usual. But as I wiped the sleep-crusties out of my eyes and kissed Rowdy good morning, I was presenting as a man. I wasn't wearing makeup. My hair wasn't blow-dried nor ironed. I hadn't shaved my legs or armpits. Still foggy with sleep, I wasn't talking in the high lady-voice I can put on, but in my normal much deeper and much less sing-songy tones. I scratched and farted like a man. I even--being still sticky from sweat from the current heat wave--smelled like a man.

Butt-ass naked and half-asleep, in a completely "default" state for a human being, I was about as masculine as a person can get. Sure, I was a shower, some deodorant, and some clothing away from performing tidy masculinity--but that's beside the point. A man rolling disheveled out of bed is in no way feminine.

I suppose a nightie and girlier mannerisms would've helped a little, but there's no way to roll out of bed fully feminine. Femininity is work! After you get up, you gotta put your lady on, or you'll look like a man all day! I haven't done it in a while, but it takes me about eight products and sixty minutes to be fully not a man.

This is a major problem I have with gender. On one hand, I want to value masculinity and femininity equally--every form of gender expression is equally good, right? On the other hand, I often feel like certain aspects of femininity are impositions or hindrances. High heels and men's shoes may be equally valid fashion statements; but if I've gotta run somewhere (or, in my case, walk), I know which one I'd choose. It seems to me that a lot of expressions of femininity are inconvenient, labor and money intensive, or submissive. The fashions and mannerisms expected of women are generally more sexualizing and less useful than the ones expected of men.

As I sometimes do, I'm ending this post still unresolved. I don't want to be one of those feminists--the ones who tell women that if they wear makeup, they're supporting the patriarchy, so their individual choices are invalid. But I can't shake the feeling that some individual choices are a lot more--inconvenient,if nothing else--than others, and those are the ones women are traditionally encouraged to make.

In a world where many women have grown up believing that they shouldn't leave the house without putting their face on, how do I reconcile "it's sexist that women are expected to put on makeup" with "it's a woman's choice if she wants to put on makeup"?

EDIT: This post offended a lot of people. See this for my amendment/apology, and this for my last word (for today) on gender identity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cosmocking: The Great Female Survey!

I need to lighten the mood around here. So, Cosmocking! and Cosmopolitan are running the Great Female Survey to... see what women think. About stuff.

The very idea of a "Great Male Survey" and "Great Female Survey" already irks me, because if you split people in two you can always create the appearance of two deeply divergent groups--I'm sure the "Great Brown-Eyed Survey" would reveal just how different they are from blue-eyers while creating the impression that all brown-eyers speak with one voice. Cosmo has a history of taking survey results saying "51% of women do X" and interpreting them as "women do X," and I can see that coming from a mile off, here.

But let's look at the questions! Let's put them in italics and make them look silly!

PLEASE SELECT YOUR SEXUAL ORIENTATION: Heterosexual Bisexual Homosexual Rather not say
This is a red herring. The very first question is:
And the survey continues in that fashion. Tough luck if you picked "homosexual," ladies!

So this isn't really "The Great Female Survey." This is "The Great Female Survey About Males." Activities that a woman might engage in that don't include men (or at least don't include sex/romance with men) don't get much of a look in.

I was thinking about this the other day, when I saw some attempt to raise sympathy for female victims of violence with "what if this was your sister, your daughter, your wife?" There was no "what if this was you?" Women are so often described in terms of our relationships, instead of in our own right. This survey isn't about me--it's about the parts of me that are useful to men.

I realize that this survey is written in a world where many people do believe the man should pay for dates, and in some ways it's simply reflecting that world. At the same time... augh. Would it have killed ya to ask "How should couples split the cost of dates?"

Oh fucking hell. And one of the options is "Yes, but only if he didn't know about it." The biggest problem with questions like this isn't that they're gross and creepy, and it isn't that it legitimizes an obviously controlling and abusive idea. The biggest problem is that some percentage of people will say "yes" to anything on a survey (especially an anonymous Internet survey), and then "3% of women are in favor of control and abuse" easily turns into "women are in favor of control and abuse."

Feeling close to my partner
The possibility of having sex
It's a good way to apologize
Needing a personal favor
I'm not that romantic

I'm glad they left one whole option open for "I'm not being manipulative and crafty and pretending to be romantic to get my way. Like women do."


"It's his body, his choice" is not an option.


Each one lists numbers of partners: 10, 20, 50, 100, and "never." I guess "never" sort of covers my answer, but it doesn't encompass the sheer depth of "these aren't even real words" that I feel about questions like this. It's like asking how many times your car has to be driven around the block before it's a car-whore. That's just not a thing that cars should have to worry about.

The bidding starts at 18. 18! There's an option for "never," but no option for "men can gain looks because it's not all about youth" and definitely none for "hey, depends what you're into."

And the worst part is knowing that this is almost certainly being asked because there's a counterpart answer on the Great Male Survey.

Really now?

White wine.
Vodka tonic.
Light beer.

Really now. Not only is this missing a "none of the above," but it's missing all the good drinks! The ultimate woman's drink is a hefeweizen with a wedge of orange, god dammit.

A beer
Whatever Don Draper from Mad Men is drinking

I never knew drinks were this major an area of gender identification. They aren't served in pink and blue glasses, either, so sometimes I have to guess!

...And I guess that anything enjoyed by a person identifying as a man is a man's drink, for fuck's sake, because how the hell else would you define it?

I don't like this survey any more. I want to go home. Before it asks me "WHICH IS MORE AWESOME: THE COLOR PINK, TRYING ON CLOTHING, OR DOMESTIC SUBMISSION?"

I can't believe I have trolls accusing me of misandry. Shit, son, you ain't seen misandry until you've seen how misogynists talk about men!

Yes, and it bothers me that women are so shallow.
Yes, but men put a lot of value on women's looks so it balances out.
Yes, but it works to my advantage.

So my options are, basically:
Women suck
Women suck, but men also suck, and additionally, a woman's ass is her "money" (how a woman may purchase gasoline and groceries with ass is not quite determined, as ass liquidity remains a problem)
Women suck, and I love it

Um... I choose "no?"

Oh fuckshit, now I look like a gold-digger.

A beautiful house
A beautiful wardrobe
A very successful husband or boyfriend
A huge engagement ring
An expensive car

Um, actual accomplishm... oh fuck it.

And fuck this survey. Fuck its no-win scenarios for any woman who acts like a reasonable human being, fuck its erasure of any woman who isn't straight and feminine and middle-class, and fuck its lack of ambition to learn anything other than exactly which shallow misogynist stereotype fits women best.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Why does she stay with that jerk?"

If there's one thing I've learned from working in an emergency room, it's that people are terrible liars. Maybe I only think that because the good liars don't get caught? But a lot of people are just awful at it. They make their "I'm lying now!" faces and they tell stories that defy physics, biology, and logic, then forget their own stories.

And a lie I hear almost every day in the emergency room is "I fell down the stairs. My partner loves me. They would never hurt me."

(In this post, I will be mixing up genders randomly in the examples, to illustrate that members of every gender abuse members of every gender. This is not the post to talk about "who does it more/who does it worse.")

For a long time, I just couldn't understand this. We'd get the victim in a private room locked away from the abuser, and they'd sit there with bruises or wounds or even broken bones, in a safe place surrounded by people who wanted to help them, and they'd tell us, often through tears... "I fell down the stairs." It drove me nuts. It made me furious at the victims. Why did they do this? Did they like pain? Did they want to get murdered? Were they just unbelievably stupid? Why the HOLY LIVING FUCK would someone choose to protect and return to a partner who just broke their arm?

Well, then I worked in the ER a little longer, talked to a lot more abuse victims and survivors, thought back upon my own reasons for not getting out of certain situations, and it turns out there's a lot of reasons. I'm sure this isn't comprehensive, but I'm going to make a long list here--and often many of these reasons are working together. Some of them are deeply wrapped up in the psychology of abuse; some of them are just depressingly sensible. Each of these is based on a real person, or several of them are based on one real person--most of them are based on many real people.

1. "I don't want to die."
Her husband has told her that if she leaves he will kill her, and she believes this. (She may well be right.) The instant he gets a whiff of where she's staying--and he probably will, at some point, from a well-meaning friend or through the legal system or by persistent stalking or random chance--he's going to come there and he's going to do something very, very bad to her. Staying with him may be horrible, but at least she gets to live. She believes that if she leaves, no one and nothing can protect her from his vengeance.

2. "I'll die without her."
He lives in his girlfriend's apartment. He's unemployed, or minimally employed, and has no education or good experience on his resume. He has no friends besides her. He's gotten to the point where he doesn't know how he'll get food without her help, much less navigate all the challenges of life. And if he leaves her, he'll be leaving everything--she'll destroy any of his stuff that he leaves behind, stalk him so he can't stay at the same job, and even kill his pets. If he leaves her, he's certain that he'll end up living on the streets.

3. "He'll die without me."
Her boyfriend lives in her apartment. He's unemployed, or minimally employed. He probably doesn't know how to get food without her help, much less navigate all the challenges of life. He tells her he'd be homeless without her, maybe even kill himself if she left him. She just couldn't stand to be responsible for something like that; even though he's hurt her, it would cut her to the bone to know that she had ruined or killed him.

4."What about the kids?"
Right now, she protects the kids from her husband. He may rage at her, but she shelters them from the worst of it and she makes sure they have the best home she can give them under the circumstances. If she leaves, she doubts she can get sole custody of the kids without visitation, much less get it immediately. And if the kids are alone with him, something very bad will happen. He'll hurt them, or turn them against her, or take them away and she'll never see them again. Maybe all three. Her kids are her life and she can't bear to let something like that happen.

5. "I tried once, and it made things worse."
This isn't the first time. He did call the cops on his husband before, and he ran away that night. The cops didn't find enough evidence, and when he came back to get his stuff, his husband was... tearfully apologetic, actually. Somehow he talked him into staying and not taking his stuff. The punishment came later--once he'd more or less committed to staying around--and it was horrible. But he's afraid that if he tried to leave again, he'd go through the same cycle again.

6. "I reached out once, and was rebuffed."
In a rare moment of courage, he--with shaking hands, summoning all his strength--told someone he thought he could trust what his wife was doing to him. They told him to think about her point of view for once, to not use big drastic words like "abuse," and to take care of his own damn problems without airing his dirty laundry. He just knows that if he reaches out again, it's going to be the same thing. He's lucky she didn't find out about that time and doubts if it's worth taking the risk again.

7. "If I call the cops, I'll be in trouble."
She's a prostitute. On the side, she sells drugs. She owns guns she shouldn't have and lives in a place she shouldn't be. Hell, she shouldn't even be in this country. Her lifestyle is so far outside the law that any attention from the police is likely to get her thrown in jail--so she can't very well tell the police that her girlfriend beats her.

8. "Run away? Call the cops? I can't even get away with sneezing!"
Her boyfriend controls every second of her time and every inch she moves. Whenever they're apart she has to call him and check in constantly; whenever she leaves the house she has to tell him where she's going and how long and why; he doesn't let her think without telling him about it and getting his approval. And he enforces this--reading her mail, listening to her phone conversations, showing up randomly at her work or when she's with friends (if she's allowed to have any). When she's not allowed so small a rebellion as using the wrong word, really rebelling against him seems impossible. She figures he'd catch her if she even thought about trying.

9. "If it were so bad, someone would have done something."
Everyone knows what's going on in his life. His friends have seen his girlfriend hitting him; his parents have heard him say "I can't do that, she won't let me" about a million things; the neighbors have heard the screams and crashes when she explodes. He knows everyone knows already, and knows that they haven't done anything even though they know. So, he figures, what difference would it make to tell them? Clearly they've already decided that this isn't bad enough to call in the authorities over.

10. "It's a joke to him, so it should be a joke to me."
His boyfriend hits him and treats it like a joke, laughing uproariously and expecting his victim to laugh along. To make a big deal out of this kind of violence would just be humorless, and he's got a sense of humor, doesn't he? Even when the only punchline is "ha ha, you're in pain!" And how do you go to the cops with a story like "he played a joke on me?" Cops don't arrest people for jokes.

11. "I'm just terrified to hurt her feelings."
Abuse has made her telepathic. Years of desperately trying to keep her girlfriend happy so bad things won't happen have made her keenly aware of her girlfriend's every fleeting emotion. Her girlfriend is a tiny bit moody and she rushes to coddle and comfort her; her girlfriend is a tiny bit happy and she just about throws a party for her. She's so used to reading her girlfriend's feelings and translating them into her own that she can't stand to do something that would really hurt her girlfriend's feelings. Just the thought of dealing with that much anger--when even a tiny amount of anger is a big deal in their house--is too terrifying to imagine.

12. "I'm so embarrassed I let him do this to me."
He's been abusing her for years. She doesn't see herself as some cowed little victim; she's a smart woman, an independent woman to all appearances, maybe even a declared feminist. So to come out now and say he's been hurting her all along just feels stupid. Everyone's going to ask "why did you stay with that jerk?" and she's not going to have an answer. She tells everyone her relationship is wonderful and a paragon of communication and respect, and the longer she keeps up the charade, the harder it is to say not only "turns out I'm a cowed little victim" but "turns out I'm a cowed little victim and also a liar."

13. "I've learned to live in her system."
He knows all the rules by now. As long as he always treats his wife with the utmost politeness and gentleness, and always has dinner ready before she comes home, always is up for sex when she wants it, and always lets her make the decisions, things are okay. He actually feels pretty safe when he's being "good." So it doesn't seem like there's anything wrong with the relationship, because it goes great so long as he does as he's supposed to.

14. "We're outsiders; no one cares about our problems."
They're a lesbian couple, one of them is transgendered, and they're kinky to boot. She's had enough problems just explaining to the "authorities" that their relationship exists; how the hell is she supposed to convey that there's something wrong with it? She's internalized enough prejudice that she figures it's sort of her own fault for being in such a strange relationship, and she doesn't figure anyone cares that much about the troubles of a weirdo.

15. "After all he's done for a jerk like me?"
Her husband has put up with so much from her. This isn't #13; these were genuinely bad things. He helped her pay off the nasty credit card debt she was in. He stayed with her even after she got fired from her job and flunked out of school; he even bailed her out of jail when she really fucked up. Who could blame the guy if he loses his patience now and then? She figures she really is a very difficult person to live with, she deserves some punishment for all she's screwed up, and she should be grateful that he's kept her around at all. As he reminds her when she's pushed him too far--who else would love her?

16. "She's really nice... mostly."
Her wife is super sweet and loving. She's a flowers-and-chocolates romantic, a believer in true love and love at first sight, and she treats her just like a princess. Except now and then, things get tense in the relationship, and bad things happen. Really bad things. Her wife just doesn't seem like herself and she explodes. But the apology is even sweeter and lovinger than before and things are good again. Maybe it was a one-off. Or a two-off. A three-off? Maybe this really is the last time and from now on she'll just have the nice wife she fell in love with. She's certainly being nice now, and how could you leave someone like that?

17. "It just isn't done in our community."
In her culture, the husband is the leader of the household and what he says, goes. He has the right to hit his wife if he feels it's necessary. Divorce is a taboo. Good women don't leave their husbands; good women make their husbands happy. She feels like going against her husband would be going against her entire culture, and she can't bear to do that. The community wouldn't support her and she'd feel like a traitor to her own people.

18. "Actually, I'm abusing her."
When she explodes, she doesn't tell her boyfriend "I hate you;" she tells him "you hate me." She tells him that he's hurting her, that she's responding the way she is because she just can't take his abuse any more, and he believes her. He's trying desperately to treat her right, to treat her the way she deserves, and he just keeps fucking up. Often when she's yelling he yells back--sometimes he even hits back--and that makes him more sure than ever that he's the real abuser here.

19. "It's not that bad."
She firmly believes that real abuse is when they punch you--and her husband's only slapped her with an open hand. Real abuse is when they beat you--and he only yells at her until she cries and then yells at her to stop crying. Real abuse is when they rape you--and he always makes her say "yes" before he has sex with her, no matter how little she wants it. She recognizes there's something wrong in their relationship, but could never call it like, abuse abuse, and so she can't react to it like it's real abuse.

20. "This is how relationships work, isn't it?"
Her parents' relationship was a constant cycle of drama and violence. Her relationship with her parents was just as bad. Her high school boyfriend hit her and her college boyfriend made her have sex when she didn't want it. She kinda figures everyone else's relationship is just the same behind the scenes. All she worries about is how to make the best of an abusive relationship; while she knows it intellectually, she doesn't believe deep down that a non-abusive relationship is possible, at least for her.

The one thing that isn't on the list, anywhere, is "the victim is just weak and stupid." Victims of abuse come in all types and lots of them really are flawed in big and small ways--but their reasons for staying with their abusers are not "just stupid." They're complicated, insidious, and saddest of all, sometimes right.

Usually I end these "long-list" posts with a cheery little "add your own!", and while that invitation remains open (sadly, I'm sure there are tons that I missed), I'm going to add something to this one:

If any of these sound like you--even if they sound like you in a "yeah, but" sort of way--even if your partner never laid a finger on you physically, it was just some yelling--even if you're a man and she's a woman and it doesn't work like that--even if you swear your situation isn't abuse because--call this number:

TTY: 1−800−787−3224

It's the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they will talk to you. They are not going to call the cops on your partner (or you). They are not going to tell you that you have to leave your relationship. Calling them is not a commitment of any kind--you can always call them and decide to stay in your relationship after all. All they're going to do is talk to you, give you an outside perspective from people who are trained to recognize and deal with abusive situations, and help you find resources for getting out of your situation if you decide that you want them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to not be creepy.

My name is Holly Pervocracy, and I used to be a creep.

Not the worst kind of creep; I was certainly never dangerous, and it wasn't to the point where I drove everyone away, but I was definitely called creepy a few times. And given the side-eye-while-edging-away a few more times. I had a strong and unusual sex drive, a tendency to be attracted to pretty much everyone I was friends with and a lot of people I wasn't, and didn't know how to express these appropriately. I made jokes that weren't jokes about "ha ha, we should totally make out right now, wouldn't that be hilarious," I shared my fetishes too loudly and way too publicly, and I expressed attraction by puppydogging my crushes pathetically. I gave people the goddamn creeps.

I don't agree with Clarisse Thorn that "creepy" is a meaningless or sexist term. (See Pandagon's response.) I think it has a very clear meaning: someone who is creepy is someone who makes you feel unsafe and uncomfortable in a sexual way. And while you may be unfair in your discomfort--for example, if you feel uncomfortable around anyone who admits they're into BDSM--it's still real. When it's realest are the times when you don't know why you feel it. If someone strikes you as "creepy" and you can't put your finger on it, you feel a little unfair applying the label because they're clearly so nice but you just keep having this feeling--do not get alone with them. "Creepy" may be a pejorative sometimes; other times it's the goddamn Gift Of Fear.

But what if people think you're a creep, and you don't deserve it? I don't think the answer is to tell them that they're being wrong and unfair--you can't argue with a feeling, and trying to debate a person into not being afraid of you is kind of creepy in itself. Sometimes you may just need to move on to another social group. But sometimes there are things you can do to make people feel safer and more comfortable around you, even as you continue to pursue sex and romance. Take it from a recovering creep.

1) Work on your social skills in general.
I'm not going to go in-depth on this because it's an entire topic unto itself. I wrote a post about social skills a while ago that expresses my thoughts on the topic; Succeed Socially is another good resource. If you don't know how to talk to people at all, you're going to come off double-extra-awkward when you try to talk to them about going home with you.

2) Don't treat your life as a quest for sex.
I've done this. I've shaved my pubes before going to social gatherings, gone to them with "am I gonna get laid, am I gonna get laid?" foremost in my mind, and come home alone with my head hanging. Not only did this make me miss out on all the other fun I could have had, not only did this hurt my chances of getting laid by someone who'd like to get to know me a little first, but it was creepy. It meant that I'd do things like:
-Only talking to people I wanted to bang, and ignoring others (people really notice this)
-Turning the conversation around to sex (and specifically, to my sexual desires) too eagerly and too often
-Propositioning people as soon as they seemed remotely friendly
-Giving the impression that I was desperate and would fuck anyone (people are not flattered by "so, you seem to have a pulse" as a come-on line)
-Publicly sulking when it became clear I wouldn't be getting laid
-Emitting loud, obvious vibes of "I'm only here to get laid" (people are amazingly good at receiving those vibes)

All of these were creepy-ass things to do. Once I started going to social events to socialize, with an attitude of "if I get laid, great, but if not, I'll definitely get to hang out with my friends and meet new people," not only did people feel more comfortable around me, but I got laid more often to boot.

3) Don't try to "cheat the system" to avoid rejection.
That is, if you want to date someone, don't come up with elaborate schemes to force yourselves together in inescapable situations--oh look, we got assigned to the same work/class group, guess we're stuck together now--or ask them on clearly not-date activities that you plan to secretly turn into dates. Don't try to arrange any romantic-comedy "coincidences." Don't target your efforts at people who seem like they'd have trouble saying "no" (whether because they're young, new to the area or the social group, or just meek)--you don't have to ignore these people, but everyone will notice if you're going after them preferentially.

And if you want to have sex with someone, for God's sake don't be this guy. In every case, just freaking ask. The point of asking someone is not to get a "yes" by any means necessary; it's to find out how they feel about you.

Realize that, post-high-school, most people are not cruel in saying no. Rejection is awkward and painful for the rejector too, and anyone worthy of your affection is going to be gentle about it. If you know each other at all as people (and sometimes even if you don't), they're not going to laugh or insult you or tell all their friends how gross you are. They're just going to tell you that you won't be dating them, which is a situation you were already living with.

If someone says no, that means no. Don't keep asking and don't ask "why not?" The answer to "why not" is never something you want to hear, and forcing it out of someone will never change their mind; it'll just be excruciating for both of you.

4) Don't get angry or resentful.
It shows. Oh god does it show. If you feel like you're not being treated "fairly" when you ask for dates or sex, if you feel like you're not getting what you "deserve," if you're just angry and frustrated by the world in general and by attractive members of your preferred gender in particular--go home, pour yourself a beer, watch some TV, take some deep, deep breaths, and don't go back in the dating pool (or, ahem, commenting online) until your head has cleared.

When it comes to sex and romance, get the concept of what you "deserve" out of your vocabulary--and as much as possible, out of your mind. You deserve safety and respect... but someone can give you those without going out with you. When it comes to deserving a particular person, or deserving to have a partner or to have sex--think of a job interview. Would you hire the candidate who tells you that they really need this job and it would be unfair to give it to someone else, or the candidate who seems like they'd be good at the job?

5) Don't scare people.
The feeling of being "creeped out" is, ultimately, a feeling of fear. And if you make people afraid that you could genuinely harm them, then it doesn't matter how smooth and sexy you are; you're going to be treated like the worst kind of creep.

Here are my handy-dandy hints on how to not be scary:
-Don't corner people. Propositioning someone in an elevator, a moving vehicle, a deserted area, or in the metaphorical corners created by their job or their academic career--super creepy.
-Don't talk about violence. When you say "I oughta have punched that guy for how he talked to me," what I hear is "if you talk to me wrong, I might punch you."
-Keep your grubby little mitts to yourself unless you have their enthusiastic consent. (If you're not in a BDSM/feminist setting, this consent may be with body language and implications rather than explicit words, but there's still a very obvious difference between "consent" and "not resisting.")
-Don't publicly insult your preferred gender or advocate politics that degrade them. No one believes you when you try to turn on a dime and say "but you're different, honey."

6) Aspire to be a friend to everyone; the sex will follow.
Not in the Nice Guy sense of "be a friend to get sex." But if you can become popular in a social group--be someone that people like to talk to and laugh with, someone they call when everyone's heading to the bar and someone who's likely to show up to help out before the party--then you're much less likely to be perceived as creepy. And you'll probably get laid, just because knowing people and having connections means that you're likely to know and be connected to someone who wants to fuck you.

The least creepy people I know are the ones who can socialize with everyone in a pally, casual, undemanding way and just relax and have fun with it. This might be more important than everything else on this list; if you're good at being a friend, I think uncreepiness comes along almost inevitably.

7) Brush your teeth.
And don't wear a raincoat indoors, especially when it's not even raining.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On not taking the bait.

On the anti-fun (er, I mean, pro-"meaningful relationships," but in a way that excludes most of the actually meaningful relationships in my life) blog Hooking Up Smart, Susan Walsh posted the following chart on the economic costs of promiscuity:

(Click to embiggify)

My reactions, in no particular order:
-"That's not even a real flowchart."
-"That's not even like a flowchart."
-"Rape is just another kind of casual sex?!?!?" (I could write a whole post about this. But Manboobz already did.)
-"Wait, so a declining birthrate is bad for the economy, but having babies is bad for the economy?"
-"Gosh, prosecuting rape sure is hard on the economy."
-"Having kids with a father present leads to substance abuse, violence, crime, and prison?"
-"Wait, you can't list 'promiscuity' as a drawback of promiscuity. That's a feature."
-"So having consensual sex with a condom and not getting an STD or getting pregnant leads you to 'whew'? Since that's actually not rare at all, that's kind of an endorsement, isn't it?"
-"Y'know, not everyone who has casual sex is on welfare. If I have a job, and I pay those $$$$$ out of my own pocket, am I still ruining the economy?"

And then I made a chart of my own. I made a chart of reasons why promiscuity is good for the economy!

I mean, I don't know. Maybe it is good. Maybe it's actually bad? I'm guessing it doesn't really make a difference, but I don't know that. Like Susan Walsh, I'm no economist. Unlike her, I'm not going to pretend I am. And exactly like Susan Walsh, I'm not in this for the economics anyway.

Is sex good or bad for the economy? I don't give a shit. It's a personal freedom.

You know what else is an extremely fucking important personal freedom to me? Not having sex. Saving it for marriage, or saving it for a meaningful relationship, or saving it for when you're "ready," or saving it for never if that's what you want to do.

Reading someone rip into sluttiness and promote prudishness (to put it crudely on both sides, but you get my gist), it's easy to be tempted to take that bait, to make yourself a mirror image of their assholery, to say "sluts rule, prudes drool!"

But that's what the assholes expect (and maybe what they want). And most of the time it kinda makes you an asshole too. The right answer is "sluts rule, prudes rule, and anyone who has a problem with either of them... drools."

This comes up a lot when facing misogyny. When reading someone saying "women commit all the abuse, women have all the advantages, women are trained to be unreasonable to men," there's a certain temptation, in the heat of the argument, to point out that men commit all the abuse, etc. And whether you're statistically/sociologically right or not, ultimately, it doesn't prove that much. What I really want to say is:

Abuse, unfair advantages, and unreasonableness suck. Let's get rid of them.

Because this feminism stuff isn't supposed to be about "sides." It's about envisioning a better world. And the people on the other side just never seem to understand that!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cosmocking: August '11! Part Two!

(He's so whipped, he vacuums hardwood!)

[On sexual fantasies]Having sex with another woman.
Why it's so hot: It doesn't mean you're gay or you want to do it for real, but seductive images of women are so embedded in our society, it's only natural to think about--and get turned on by--what it'd feel like to be with the same sex.

Wow. I never expect Cosmo to dissect the concept of the Male Gaze more or less lucidly.

...And then to completely miss the point and use it to prove why the reader couldn't possibly be bisexual. I mean, sexuality is complicated. You can be straight and fantasize about people of your gender. But you can also be not straight and have those fantasies. That does happen sometimes. Not all female-female attraction requires a hasty, almost desperate attempt to explain why this doesn't mean you're attracted to females or anything.

It's not a shocker that this scenario has flitted across his mind too... but with him as a participant.
Oh my. They're acknowledging this? Gosh, this author's going places Cosmo doesn't usually...
The thing that really revs him up about threesomes...
Oh. Never fucking mind.

Cosmo isn't openly homophobic; at least in the last few years, they've never printed anything negative about queer people. Instead, they just pretend that queer people don't exist. Or more specifically, they exist, but they couldn't possibly be you or anyone you know. It's inconceivable--incontheivable!--that those queer people we talk so big about accepting could be our own partners or ourselves.

"I'm fine with people out there doing whatever they want, but me and my folks are normal" is a very subtle form of bigotry, but it's bigotry. And it's not harmless bigotry, either.
If we extrapolate this to, say, Tyler Clementi as he was driving towards the George Washington Bridge to end his own life in the wake of being cruelly and voyeuristically outed over the Internet, I’d bet my bottom dollar that he felt even the songs on the radio weren’t meant for him, but for “normal people” more relatable to the singer and deserving of the song’s message.
-Jesse Bering, Being Suicidal: What it feels like to want to kill yourself, Scientific American

If you're feeling feisty, switch it up by swatting his hand away when he makes a move during foreplay and telling him he has to wait until you say he can touch.
He always has to wait until I say he can touch. That's how consent works.

The problem with this game is that if it's a game, then it's acceptable for him to be bratty and grab you without "permission," and you may even be baiting him to do that. If it's not a game, then that same "brattiness" is at best annoying, at worst terrifying. So I don't want to play this game in any relationship where we don't have very clear communication about when we're playing and when we're not, and no Cosmo relationship would seem to have that.

Give yourself goose bumps by sweeping a new, clean toothbrush over the curves of your neck and collarbone.
Phew. After all the Serious Business above, it's a nice breather to see Cosmo being just plain old goofy.

The brand-new hot spot to show off: your spine.
Brand-new! Notochords are so last season.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cosmocking: August '11! Part One!

White cover! Kim Kardashian! Sort of a... sweatshirt dress? Is that a thing? Yet another "bet you can't do that with your neck" Photoshop pose! It's August, so it's "The HOT Issue!" This means nothing! "50 Sex Moves!" I never really feel like my sex acts consist of "moves," I just have the sex until I am done having the sex! "How To Outsmart A Bitch!" I know I am sheltered but in my social circle "bitch" is actually a pretty nasty slur! "Flatten Your Abs!" My abs already are flat; it's just the big pad of fat over them that's rounded!

Q: Does showing my tan lines at work make me seem unprofessional?
A: Yup. Even though the best of us can fall victim to zebra skin by accident, exposing your sun stripes at work would be flaunting your bad judgement (baking does lead to skin cancer, after all). Perhaps worse, as far as your boss is concerned, it suggests you spend lots of your free time being at one with your beach towel--not exactly impressive.

While I'm sure there are bosses who think this way, I'm also sure that those bosses are assholes. Free time is free time, and if you're not stealing cars or selling company secrets, I don't think you're being paid to give a shit about "professional." Going outdoors in the summer isn't a sign you're a slacker or you have bad judgement; it's a sign you're a fucking human being.

That said, I actually agree it's probably a good idea to cover tan lines at work. But I don't have to buy into the "we want our employees to represent us 24 hours even though we only pay them for 8" mentality to do that.

"I like a woman who doesn't necessarily care if other people like her."
Do you think she gives a damn what you like?

I'm not being hostile; I'm being logical. If you want to fetishize independence in a "ooh, she's feisty" sort of way, be prepared for the objects of your fetish to not be fawningly grateful for your approval.

"I fully believe females are smarter and more evolved."
How we got to be "more evolved," when we only breed with males, is a mystery evomulotuionary scientists have yet to solve. (They're still working on an evolmultionary model that explains how 1950s American gender roles and 2010s American beauty ideals are the correct ones for all times and all places, according to evomolution.)

Coin Slots
This is a feature--which you'll forgive me if I don't scan--showing famous men's buttcracks, as captured by paparazzi when the men happened to bend over in public.

I have never been so grateful to not be famous.

36 percent of men say they're more attracted to a woman if she's using an iPad.
This would have come off a little smoother (if even more random and unlikely) if there weren't an ad for a Cosmo iPad app on the very next page.

How To Tell He's Married... Even If He's Not Wearing a Ring
-He can direct you to the nearest Bed Bath & Beyond.
-He's walking a dog. An itty-bitty, fluffy dog.
-He can hold his own in a "Real Housewives of New York City" versus "Real Housewives of New Jersey" debate.
-He pronounces Target "tar-jay."

This is what we call "gender enforcement." Because this isn't a list of things single guys don't do, not really. It's a list of things single guys aren't allowed to do. Cosmo's just one of a whole lot of self-appointed enforcers making sure of that.

...Although not very effectively, because everyone I know says "tar-jay." I didn't even know that was supposed to be a girl/pussywhipped thing.

For really pulse-pounding sex, you know it's good to mix it up and try new things. But as you're, say, pouring hot wax onto your guy's chest, you're probably wondering just how much he's into it.
Er... maybe you should ask him? Preferably before you light the candle.

Now the guessing game is over. We polled thousands of guys to learn exactly which turn them on and which tank.
And if I wanted to have sex with a homunculus created from the average preferences of several thousand guys, this would be really fucking useful!

Of course, it is really fucking useful. Now, when Rowdy tells me he doesn't like having his nipples licked, instead of thinking "I should have psychically intuited that; I suck", I can think "men are supposed to like this; he sucks." Doesn't make our sex life any better, but it sure takes a weight off my shoulders.

Handcuffing him to the bed without saying a word [rated "go for it"]
I've been over this before. I've been over most of the survey items before. Which is understandable; it's tough for Cosmo to come up with 50 ways to have sex while insisting there's only one way to have sex.

Nonetheless, it weirds me out that I--someone who regularly gets punched and bitten and choked during sex--would react to surprise handcuffs with a very nervous "um, you better tell me what you're planning to do here," and some utterly-vanilla guy is supposed to be totally cool and just go along with it.

I know I've said this before and I don't doubt I'll say it again, but: WHY IS COSMO ALLERGIC TO WORDS? Why can nobody ever talk about sex? Why is nobody ever allowed to ask any questions or make any suggestions? Is sex like some kind of goddamn ethereal spirit that goes away if you look directly at it? Is sex like a birthday present, where it's no fun if you ruin the surprise? Is sex like Charades, where if someone talks it's spoiled because it's only fun if you guess?

Sex isn't a game to me. Sex often involves games, but sex itself is Serious Business. It's an activity that has the potential to make my body, emotions, and life much better or much worse. And it's an activity that isn't the same for any two people. The only way to know if I'm doing the "much better" for my partner is to freaking ask.

As for unsexy... "I want to handcuff you to the bed and use your cock for my pleasure. Don't worry, I won't hurt you... I just want you to be bound up and helpless while I suck your cock and ride you and touch your whole body. I want to touch your bound hands and feel your fingers curl when you come. Does that sound good to you?"

He may say "yes" or "no," but any guy who hears that and goes "ugh, never mind, the moment's gone, I'm just going to sleep" wasn't worth fucking in the first place.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Two Silly Ideas.

Two ideas have been floating around in my head for a few months now, and I'm not sure if either of them is good. I'll probably do the first and I'm probably not taking the second seriously enough.

1. The Girl In The Closet.
I want Rowdy (or someone else I trust both as a person and a BDSM top) to shut me in a walk-in closet for 24 hours. Maybe a whole weekend. I'd get a jug of water (maybe a little food if it's a whole weekend) and reasonable allowances for potty breaks, and that's it.

Why: Partly as a kink thing, but mostly as a mental-clearing thing. In a weird way it almost feels like something I need, a reboot for the brain, a forced mediation. I'm a person consumed by my distractions--sex! blogs! food! electronics! hobbies! TvTropes!--and while I treasure most of those distractions, I also want to know what it's like to live without any distractions at all. It's something I would do independently, but I don't think I can force myself. So I'll get someone to force me.

Why not: It could just be a giant waste of time. I could become sufficiently physically or mentally uncomfortable that I only think about the discomfort. I'm also a little afraid that I'll beg out early and regret it, but I would not agree to an arrangement that didn't give me some way to safeword out.

2. Renouncing My Gender.
Maybe I should have said "the person in the closet." Because I'm not sure I'm a woman. I've got a female body and that doesn't bother me, but there's nothing else that convinces me I'm a woman. I'm thinking of officially declaring this and living (in kink/feminist circles, at least) as officially genderless.

Why: Not only am I not sure I'm a woman, I'm not even sure what evidence could convince me. I don't think I'm a man; I think I'm genderless, or other-gendered, or something. (Sometimes I don't understand how anybody knows what their gender is, but I take people's word that they do.) My gender is "person," and beyond that, I don't know how to define it. I don't feel manly or womanly in the least--I don't even know what "manly" or "womanly" are supposed to feel like.

Why not: I feel like I'm still taking this too lightly. I know that I'll still have to be a "woman" with family/work/school/etc. anyway. I'm only talking about myself here, but I feel weird announcing a "non-standard" gender, like I'm trying too hard to be "special" or something, like that time when I was a teenager and I typed in British spellings for a year. I don't want to alienate potential partners (or current/former partners!) who are attracted to women.

I also worry that maybe I'm overthinking it, maybe being comfortable in a female body is all it means to be a woman, and you don't have to feel like a super womanly lady girl person to be a woman.

I also worry that I'll totally lose my feminist "I'm a woman, and I think that..." cred.

For the time being, I'm still a woman. I'm sort of a "woman, but what the fuck is a woman anyway?", but I'm a woman. Right now. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Step One.

There's a lot of talk out there about how to meet the person of your dreams. Or how to pick up someone to screw. Or a whole lot of things in between--how to initiate the sexual/romantic relationship you desire, and how to "upgrade" that relationship to greater intimacy.

Not a lot about maintenance. There's discourse about how to fix a failing relationship or spice up a boring one, but when's the last time you read a book or an article or had a discussion about how to simply have an ongoing relationship? Whether you're one-night-stand partners or lifetime spouses, the primary task of a relationship--and it's a learned skill and a difficult one--is simply being in that relationship. Doin' some relating.

Meeting Rowdy was not, in itself, super rewarding. It was nice and all, but filled with apprehension and eagerness about what was to come--I didn't go "I MET A DUDE!", fist-pump, and accept my trophy. Meeting was nothing but the beginning. And the moment Rowdy and I first said "I love you" was wonderful, but it had nothing, absolutely nothing on the following months of going around actually being in love.

Yep, those months have been wonderful, but they've also been full of challenges and questions. How much time do we spend together, and what are we going to do with that time? Now that we've agreed we're going to have sex, what kind of sex do we have and how often? What does being in love mean to us and how do we express it? I've got this boyfriend now--what the hell do I do with him?

If we can't answer these questions, the fact that we merely started being in lust/love is... worthless.

"How to find sex/love" is only Step One. Steps Two through--through until you break up or someone dies--are "now that you've got sex/love, what the hell do you do with it?"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No, Seriously, What About Teh "Privilege"?

Today's post is on No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz, a group blog on men's issues written by a bunch of people who are woman-friendly and mostly feminist-friendly, but critical of society's treatment of men.

“Shut Up, Rich Boy”: The Problem With “Privilege.”

Monday, July 4, 2011


My favorite feminist word is not "patriarchy" or "privilege." It is not "sisterhood" or "womyn." It is not even "respect" or "consent."

My favorite feminist word is "person."

I've been trying to use it whenever gender isn't relevant to the story. "There was this person walking down the street..." "I'm reading a book by a person who..." "There's a person I work with..."

"Man" and "woman" shouldn't be nouns. They should be adjectives. Man person and woman person. And when none of that has anything to do with anything, person.

Feminism is the radical notion that everyone is people.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Last night at work was tiring. I didn't get a chance for a bathroom break until 6 hours into the shift and I never did get dinner. Lots of trying to make very polite bureaucratic phone calls with "AAAUUGGHH YOU FUCKERS *thump* FUCKERS *crash*" in the background.

So I got home. I got undressed and took a quick, hot, refreshing shower. I fixed myself a bit of dinner. Petted the guinea pigs. Did some stretching exercises. Caught up on some blogs. Got ready for bed. Masturbated.

One of these things is just like the others, one of these things just does belong. I took care of myself... and then I took care of myself.

I don't, generally, see masturbation as sex. For me it's not only psychologically different, but it's completely different physical sensations, and even seems to give me different orgasms. Although I sometimes do it because I get a craving, far more often I do it simply for comfort. Touching my pussy feels good and relaxing, and having an orgasm lets the tension out of my muscles and helps me get to sleep. It's not the same impulse as fucking or even making out with another person; it's the same impulse as putting on fuzzy pajamas.

So it's downright funny to me to remember when it was--and still is, I guess--an object of shame and derision, usually simultaneously. When I was in school and it'd have to be very late at night and just us girls before someone would ask, giggling, nervy, "do you masturbate?" Do I. But it's hard to say that when everyone else in the room has answered "hahaha, ewww!" Then again, it's not just kids. At the ER, we had a patient come in who happened to have a vibrator among her possessions. Everyone gossiped and gawked like it was the most unbelievable scandal ever. I said something fairly non-exhibitionist about "pfft, it's just a vibrator, no big deal" and then everyone gossiped and gawked about me and how I was "pretty wild" and had a "secret side." Do I.

I do have a secret side, but the fact that I like to get cozy at the end of a long day isn't it. Masturbation isn't dirty. It isn't naughty. It isn't even particularly sexy most of the time. It's self-care.